* Click here for links to three real-time coronavirus heat maps. And now, a press release…
Governor JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot today joined City and State public health officials to announce a robust and coordinated effort to prevent spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Earlier this month, Illinois became the first state to provide COVID-19 testing in-state, allowing IDPH to produce results within 24 hours. Next week, the administration will expand testing statewide, with new testing labs in the central and southern regions to join the existing testing lab in Cook County. Following the recommendation of the CDC, the state will also partner with hospitals in every region to engage in voluntary testing, which will allow us to diagnose new cases quickly and prevent any further community spread. Under the plan, certain emergency departments will soon begin testing select patients who present with influenza-like symptoms for COVID-19.
“Our top priority is keeping Illinoisans safe and we are using every tool and resource at our disposal to prepare for this virus and contain any spread,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This is a coordinated effort with state, city and local entities working together to put the full weight of our government behind this response. Illinois has a leading public health system that was the first – and remains one of just a few nationally – able to test for COVID-19 and we will continue leading the way forward to protect our communities.”
To date, Illinois has had two confirmed cases of COVID-19 and both individuals have made a full recovery. The immediate health risk to the state remains low. While the latest available information suggests that person-to-person spread will continue to occur and additional cases are likely to be identified in the United States, most cases of COVID-19 cause a mild illness. In very rare cases people infected with the virus have died. Additionally, to date, data shows that children are less likely to become ill.
“For over a month, Chicago has been working daily to strengthen and refine our response to this situation, contain the virus, and protect our residents from any harm,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “While the chances of contracting coronavirus remain extremely low, we will continue to closely monitor this situation as it evolves, and take appropriate preventive and pre-cautionary measures as needed in coordination with public health agencies, and our many community and healthcare partners.”
“We continue to actively monitor the international and domestic situation closely, plan ahead and strengthen and refine our local public health response,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “We’ve undertaken these serious, but necessary measures while remaining in close communication with our federal and local partners to ensure all systems in place work efficiently and effectively.”
“Cook County Department of Public Health continues to work closely with IDPH, CDPH and the CDC in our efforts and will use what resources we have to minimize the risk of spread in our communities,” said Dr. Terry Mason, COO of Cook County Department of Public Health. “The collaboration between all the agencies is what resulted in the best possible outcome for the two confirmed cases. This is classic public health at work doing what we are trained and prepared to do.”
The city and state are experienced at responding to infections disease outbreaks and continue to work in lockstep to put systems in place to respond to this new virus. Current efforts include:
Airport screening and monitoring health of travelers returning from China.
Investigating confirmed cases of COVID-19 and monitoring friends and family who may have been exposed.
Planning community measures that can help limit the spread of disease, like having ill individuals stay home (including housing and transportation needs).
Providing regular guidance to hospitals and healthcare professionals, including information on infection control, personal protective equipment (PPE) supply planning, and clinical evaluation.
Working to expand local laboratory testing for COVID-19.
Developing and distributing guidance for childcare facilities, schools, universities, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations, among many others.
In addition to efforts by local health systems, there are important steps individuals and communities can take to help minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread:
Practice everyday preventive actions such as performing frequent hand hygiene, using hand sanitizer or soap and water when visibly soiled; covering your cough and sneezes; avoiding ill people; and staying home when sick (except to seek medical care). These simple actions can prevent the spread of many illnesses, including COVID-19.
Healthcare providers should continue to ask patients with fever and respiratory symptoms about their travel history. Refer to CDC’s Guidance for Healthcare Professionals for more information on screening and evaluating Persons Under Investigation.
Childcare facilities, K-12 schools and colleges/universities should review their emergency operations plans, including strategies for social distancing and online learning.
Businesses and employers should actively encourage all employees to stay home when sick, perform hand hygiene, and cover coughs and sneezes. Businesses should review their emergency operations plan, including identification of essential business functions, teleworking and flexible sick leave policies. For more information see CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers.
Community- and faith-based organizations should review existing emergency operations plans, including strategies for social distancing and modifying large gatherings such as concerts and festivals.
Officials also warned against stigmatization toward specific populations and said knowing the facts about COVID-19 will help minimize stigma and misinformation.
This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available. More information can be found on the IDPH website, the CDPH website, and the CDC website and questions can be directed to the IDPH hotline, 1-800-889-3931.
* The federal government really needs to get its act together…
Federal health employees interacted with Americans quarantined for possible exposure to the coronavirus without proper medical training or protective gear, then scattered into the general population, according to a government whistle-blower who lawmakers say faced retaliation for reporting concerns.
World Health Organization officials said Friday they are increasing the risk assessment of the coronavirus, which has spread to at least 49 countries in a matter of weeks, to “very high” at a global level.
“We are on the highest level of alert or highest level of risk assessment in terms of spread and in terms of impact,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program. The group isn’t trying to alarm or scare people, he said. “This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready. You have a duty to your citizens, you have a duty to the world to be ready.”
The world can still avoid “the worst of it,” but the increased risk assessment means the WHO’s “level of concern is at its highest,” he said at a press conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva.
World leaders still have a chance to contain the virus within their borders, Ryan said. “To wait, to be complacent to be caught unawares at this point, it’s really not much of an excuse.”
World share markets crashed again, winding up their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis and bringing the global wipeout to $5 trillion.
Hopes that the epidemic that started in China late last year would be over in months, and that economic activity would quickly return to normal, have been shattered as the number of international cases has spiralled.
“The outbreak is getting bigger,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.
“The scenario of the coronavirus reaching multiple countries, if not all countries around the world, is something we have been looking at and warning against since quite a while.”
* This is a good point…
Health officials are urging the public to get vaccines like the flu or pneumonia shot.
While it won’t prevent contracting the virus, it will help keep people out of healthcare systems.
* Other important news…
* ADDED: No, the CDC isn’t recommending men shave their beards to protect against the coronavirus
* How A Coronavirus Blood Test Could Solve Some Medical Mysteries: Very few kids globally have ended up in the hospital. Is that because they’re not getting infected, or they’re getting infected but not getting sick? An answer to that question will help public health officials figure out whether it makes sense to close schools if there’s a big outbreak.
* What are the novel coronavirus health risks?: It doesn’t get a lot of press attention, but seasonal influenza viruses kill tens of thousands of people every year in the U.S. Current estimates of mortality rates for COVID-19 – which may not be completely accurate because we do not know how many unreported or unconfirmed infections there are – suggest that this disease is more deadly than seasonal influenza. However, mortality rates are highly age-dependent and are only high for older people and people with other underlying health conditions. Accurate estimates of these numbers in the middle of an outbreak are hard, but the case fatality rates for confirmed cases of COVID-19 in China are 1.3% for ages 50-59, 3.6% for ages 60-69, 8% for 70-79, and 14.8% for 80+. Mortality rates are much lower for younger people.
* Chicago Area School Districts Putting Together Coronavirus Protocol: The IDPH says the state statute “allows schools districts to use e-learning days in lieu of emergency days if they have an e-learning plan approved by their Regional Office of Education.” … There were lessons learned when the 2009 H1N1 pandemic closed over 100 schools. The CDC said research since then shows that something small like keeping classes smaller and spacing desks further apart could have a big role in minimizing spread of other similar viruses, like coronavirus.
* Olympic Officials Dismiss ‘Speculation’ That Coronavirus Could Disrupt Tokyo Games
* Key Missteps at the CDC Have Set Back Its Ability to Detect the Potential Spread of Coronavirus: The CDC designed a flawed test for COVID-19, then took weeks to figure out a fix so state and local labs could use it. New York still doesn’t trust the test’s accuracy.
* Springfield businesses not seeing impact of coronavirus — yet: “If we have a suspected case of coronavirus, we know the testing criteria, we know how we isolate that patient, we know where we would place them in our facility, we know how we would contact the state Department of Public Health to get testing done, we know the equipment we will need,” said Raj Govindaiah, chief medical officer at Memorial Health System. “Yeah, we’re prepared.” The hospital has put together a group led by its infection prevention experts to make a coronavirus plan. The group has been meeting for about a month, with Govindaiah describing the effort as analogous to the hospital’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
* Coronavirus outbreaks worry students studying abroad, while colleges cancel some overseas programs. ‘Doing everything I can to stay safe and healthy.’